Inhaled Pulmonary Vasodilators and Thoracic Organ Transplantation: Does Evidence Support Its Use and Cost Benefit?

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Seminars in cardiothoracic and vascular anesthesia


In heart transplantation, pulmonary hypertension and increased pulmonary vascular resistance followed by donor right ventricular dysfunction remain a major cause of perioperative morbidity and mortality. In lung transplantation, primary graft dysfunction remains a major obstacle because it can cause bronchiolitis obliterans and mortality. Pulmonary vasodilators have been used as an adjunct therapy for heart or lung transplantation, mainly to treat pulmonary hypertension, right ventricular failure, and associated refractory hypoxemia. Among pulmonary vasodilators, inhaled nitric oxide is unique in that it is selective in pulmonary circulation and causes fewer systemic complications such as hypotension, flushing, or coagulopathy. Nitric oxide is expected to prevent or attenuate primary graft dysfunction by decreasing ischemia-reperfusion injury in lung transplantation. However, when considering the long-term benefit of these medications, little evidence supports their use in heart or lung transplantation. Current guidelines endorse inhaled vasodilators for managing immediate postoperative right ventricular failure in lung or heart transplantation, but no guidance is offered regarding agent selection, dosing, or administration. This review presents the current evidence of inhaled nitric oxide in lung or heart transplantation as well as comparisons with other pulmonary vasodilators including cost differences in consideration of economic pressures to contain rising pharmacy costs.

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ePub ahead of print

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